Chapter 3:6-15 (ESV) - “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.
“Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’”
Question to consider: How should we view tithes and offerings today?
God had every right to destroy Israel, but God is faithful in His promises. God promised to bless the nations through Abraham and to bring about the promised seed through Jacob and to establish David’s throne for eternity so instead of destroying Israel, He gave them a call to repent of their sin and return to Him. As I mentioned in yesterday’s lesson, the root of injustice in Israel was the partiality of the priests. However, their partiality was a direct result of people withholding their tithes and offerings. The priests did not get an inheritance in the land so they depended upon the tithes and offerings to eat. The wealthy exploited the financial need of the priests to justify their evil deeds. Even though the priests were still responsible for blessing the evil deeds of the wealthy, if everyone brought their tithes and offerings (no matter how small), it would lessen the temptation of the priests to cave to the interests of the wealthy.
This passage is a drum that gets pounded on by televangelists as a proof text for their give-to-get schemes. However, I don’t think God’s promise here was to bless false teachers in order to enrich ourselves. God was giving the nation the assurance that He was the one who blessed the fruits of their soil and the vines of their fields. If they were faithful in bringing their tithes and offerings, they could trust God to take care of them. Instead, they were judging God harshly by saying that serving Him was pointless given that only the arrogant and evildoers prospered.
Today, we don’t have Levites or land inheritances like they did in ancient Israel, and technically, Christ has fulfilled the entirety of the law, including the law of the tithe. So what, if any, application can we draw from this passage? Even though Christ has fulfilled the law of the tithe, as we walk more closely with Jesus, our spirit of generosity should grow. If our local church does not faithfully preach the word of God and administer God’s gifts to us, we should find a church that does. However, if we belong to a faithful church, we should be excited about helping it thrive. We may not have fields or vineyards, but God is still sovereign over our vocations. If everyone in the church was generous with their time and treasure according to their means, we would not need capital campaigns or cause our pastors to wonder whether they will be able to feed their families.
I’m sorry if this hits close to home, but church is not all about what we can consume. We do not choose a church based on the programs they offer or because they have a good worship band that plays all your favorite music or because the pastor preaches interesting life hacks from the pulpit. We choose a church based on its fidelity to Christ’s command to make disciples, and we choose a church based on where God is calling us to serve. If we are faithful in this, I think God’s promise to pour out a blessing still stands for us today.
Dear heavenly father, may each of us use whatever gift we have received to serve others, faithfully administering Your grace in all of its forms. Lead us to churches that proclaim Christ crucified for our sins and help us to walk more closely with Christ. Please awaken in us a spirit of generosity toward our local congregations and be a blessing to our pastors. Amen.